Friday, September 10, 2010

Is Zach Duke the worst pitcher in baseball?

Pop quiz: Who is the worst starting pitcher in Major League Baseball over the last four seasons?

If you said Zach Duke, then you nailed it.

The Pirates lefty has flat-out not been very good for a span that's lasted four seasons. In that time he has compiled a 26-51 record and a 4.99 ERA and more than once has led MLB in hits allowed.

He put together a decent first half of 2009, where he was rewarded with an All-Star selection, but if Duke has proved anything, it's that he can't get major league hitters out consistently.

If you say he hasn't been the worst over that span, give me a name, because I've run the numbers on pretty much every pitcher that has had a regular rotation spot.

In 2010, there is no doubt he is the worst pitcher taking a regular turn on an MLB staff. His losses are tied for fifth among pitchers with at least 120 IP. His 5.47 ERA is the second highest, and his .320 opponents batting average against is easily the worst. That's actually embarrassing.

Once or twice out of 10 starts, Duke can turn in a good outing, as he did against the Mets a little over a month ago, but the overall body of work has not been good.

In his latest outing, he couldn't get an out in the second inning. There is no longer an upside to Zach Duke. He can't be a part of the Pirates rotation going forward.

What do you do with Duke?

He's making $4.3 million this year and is third-time arbitration eligible after the season. On innings pitched alone, he's going to get a raise.

The Pirates can't allow that to happen.

The only move that makes sense is to non-tender him after the season. His career as a Pirate should last two or three more starts.

It's very unlikely Duke gets a major league offer from another team. He's looking at signing a minor league deal with an invitation to some team's camp.

The Pirates can't spend over $5 million on a guy that just can't get outs.

The production Duke offers can be found on the waiver wire for a lot less money. Take Brian Burres, for instance. His 3-3 record and 5.75 ERA can be found easily and a lot cheaper than $5 million.

It's almost fitting that the Pirates have the worst pitcher in the game, but to turn the corner, management has to start parting ways with guys that are incapable of getting the job done on a consistent basis.

There is nothing about Duke that warrants him being part of the 2011 Pirates team. It's such a shame after the way he came up as a rookie in 2005. Injuries set him back, and that 2005 Zach Duke was entirely a different pitcher than the guy wearing that jersey now.

Duke fans, enjoy him while you can, because he is more than likely spending his final few weeks in a Pirates uniform.

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